Tuesday, July 20, 2004

High tech guarantees a better life?

Last weekend, I visited quite a few relatives back home in Ostrobothnia. And naturally, they ask me what I'm up to these days. I explain that I'm a researcher, examining weblogs.
In 9 out of 10 times, 3 questions follow:
  1. First up is "Why can't you get a decent job, where you work with your body and hands?" Answer: Because I choose not to.
  2. Second: "Who pays you to do this?" Answer: Rather vague as my funding ends in about 2 weeks...
  3. And the most fascinating one: "How does your research make my life any better?" This is a good and justified query as many researchers are funded by taxpayers' money. But what's more, it's interesting in my case because the question expresses a doubt that high tech equates a better life, and thus implies that little research on the matter is needed.
Sociologists have concluded that technology has been important for social change. Take Gutenberg's printing press, the railroads and the factories for example. But not all sociologists equate progress in technology with great progress in life quality. Marx, Weber and Durkheim thought that in the long run, technology fosters individualism, which is not always considered as a good thing.
According to Marx, capitalism fosters a culture of selfishness. Weber thought that the rationality in modern societies wears away kinship ties, while the ever expanding bureaucracy manipulates and isolates people. Durkheim again believed that as the member of the modern society is more and more interdependent, s/he is less able to create a common moral framework within which to judge right and wrong.
Will my thesis on communication in weblogs enhance my relatives' life quality? Will also weblogs foster individualism? Will there even be any weblogs as we know them now around, say, in a decade? Alex Halavais states that: "Blogging is dead, long live blogging. I suspect that over the next few years we will see a lot of calls suggesting that blogging has died, and I suspect that in a sense they will be right."
It's too early to say, especially here in Finland where the phenomenon of blogging is slowly taking off, not to mention to predict the actual impact on the life of Mr and Mrs Citizen. But I've got a couple of possible scenarios regarding the future of blogs and it will be fun to see if any of them turn out to be true.

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